History is full of beautiful lessons and although we are involved in forging a new world driven home by pin sharp technology and data, our national past has case studies we should ponder upon. Consumer technology and bring your own device (BYOD) policies are at the sharp end of CIO debate at present. At the heart of the BYOD debate is whether organisations will benefit from being released from procuring and possibly supporting a hardware estate.
CIOs want to be strategic and for their time to be consumed by improving the lot of customers and employees through transformational technology, so an exit from the drudgery of dealing with channels sounds good. But as we all know, you don't just buy a hardware estate, you buy into a host of support packages, which in your mind, are designed to make the organisation as efficient and reliable as possible for your workforce and customers. But if you relinquish control of the hardware you more than likely pull the support out of the technology estate too with a dirty great claw hammer.
Intuitive as consumer devices are, they are still technologically complex and will at times come unstuck. Where will the support come from for your workforce then? If your department is no longer operating a service desk, or one to self-owned tablet devices, the workforce will have to source its own support mechanism. But if you have no control on which devices they buy, you may also have no control as to whom they buy support from. Enter the middle-man. Now there are many reputable and excellent support operators out there, but as consumerisation grows, the market for support will flourish and so too is the likelihood of lower quality offerings and even undesirable entrants to the market.
Here history has examples for us. In the early part of the industrial revolution key parts of the manufacturing process were completed not in the satanic mills of our Jerusalem, but at home by contractors you might say. Nail making was a typical example where the final finished product was created in the small forges craftsmen had in their midlands homes. Wages and conditions were poor with many nail makers suffered starvation. Relationships between the workers and organisations were poor and a number of strikes in Dudley and Birmingham are documented. Adding to this fervour were the Foggers, middlemen that sold raw materials to nail makers on unsustainable credit, then sold the finished product at a fraudulent lower price in a relationship that kept the nail makers poor.
In time this unsustainable relationship led in a small way to the decline of British manufacturing. Proponents of BYOD allude to how mechanics and plumbers bring their own tools. But a mechanics socket set doesn't extract personal data and a plumber’s pipe cutter wears out and is replaced, these are not tools that need constant supervision. When these two highly skilled individuals do need and use technological tools, they as more often than not leased. A small garage will lease a diagnostics system from the technology provider in a model closer to cloud computing than it is to BYOD.
There are already many in the business world wondering if the workforce has to take responsibility for its technology supply and support, will that decrease the workforce's motivation to take responsibility for the organisation and its outcomes?
Using your own devices for some level of work related activity has been with us since the PC revolution and CIOs may be better rewarded enabling a use your own device to enable flexibility as a workforce motivator. Other CIOs have told me that offering staff the opportunity to keep a tablet for personal use after it is replaced in a refresh programme has changed behaviour and lowered maintenance costs.
History shows that often the best results come when the workforce feel supported and provided for. Giving them the best tools and the support required allows them to focus on what we hire them to do, be productive, innovate and to deliver results. BYOD could allow unscrupulous Foggers into your enterprise.